08/12/07 — Progress Energy crews worked to get power back on

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Progress Energy crews worked to get power back on

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on August 12, 2007 2:01 AM

Progress Energy and city crews worked through the night Friday to clear roads and assess damages caused by a storm that cracked giant trees, bent signs and took roof materials off several local businesses.

Days Inn on Wayne Memorial Drive was deemed a "total loss." Saturday afternoon, officials from the city's Inspections Department were still at the site, as was a contractor hired by the city to clean up debris associated with the roof blowing off the building.

On the city streets toward downtown, Recreation and Parks staff busily cleaned up Herman Park, which City Manager Joe Huffman and Fire Chief Alvin Ward said bore the brunt of the storm.

Huffman said that by noon Saturday, the majority of the large debris had been cleared from main roads.

"As far as I know, every street in the city is clear," he said. "Now, there could be something I don't know about, but I haven't heard anything."

Residents are asked to add branches and other debris from their yards to piles of larger items moved to the side of the road by city crews.

Huffman said those piles would be dealt with Monday, as city crews make their way back and forth from the streets to the compost facility.

Meanwhile, Progress Energy crews labored feverishly Saturday to restore power zapped by the storm.

At its peak, an estimated 10,100 customers were without electricity, said Keith Westbrook, Goldsboro operations manager for Progress Energy.

"It came through just before 7 p.m. By 9 at the latest, we had pretty much all of the damage we had experienced," he said.

By mid-afternoon Saturday, 900 customers were still without power, said Capricia Townes, a Progress Energy spokesperson. Crews were working to resolve the situation.

Westbrook said at that point he had "35 line contractors, 12 tree contractors, 20 eastern region employees and 20 local employees basically fighting the storm."

Efforts began immediately after the weather event struck, he said.

"We opened the storm center around 7:30 p.m. (Friday), and it's been manned since then. We're basically looking at going into 10 or 11 p.m. Saturday to get the majority of it restored."

The storm center was set up on Arrington Bridge Road in Dudley, where orders to the workers were dispatched.

Westbrook said the areas hit hardest were Goldsboro city streets around Audubon, Ash, Mulberry and Jefferson as well as Royall Avenue. There were very few outages in the outlying areas, Westbrook said, which prompted all manpower efforts to be concentrated in the city.

"Pretty much the major cause of the damage was the high winds associated with trees , which took power lines and poles down," he said.

While no one has classified the storm, Westbrook said there is no denying its destructiveness.

"Whatever set down, and I don't know if it was a small tornado or whatever, but it affected us like a hurricane, the devastation," he said.

Calling on the public's continued patience as cleanup is completed, Westbrook also cautioned residents to avoid power lines.

"Under a situation like this, all customers and the public should treat the lines, even if they are on the ground, as if they're energized," he said. "Stay away from them, keep children and pets away. They're not considered dead until they're grounded. A professional should take care of that."

Another local motel dodged the same fate as the Days Inn.

Phil Ronaghan, manager of the Holiday Inn Express, said most of the problems were cosmetic.

"Other than a little bit of roof damage as far as the blue siding, that was pretty much it," he said. "None of our rooms were out of order, none of the guests were displaced. We're just looking a little bruised."

Ronaghan said there were no reports of injury and in fact, "We actually took in some of the people from the Days Inn. We're doing what we can to get as many people in as possible."

Damages to the county schools was also minimal, said Ken Derksen, public information officer.

"The central office (on Royall Avenue) got hit, blew out a couple doors, damaged some trees and cars in the parking lot," he said. "A storage building behind North Drive Elementary School got hit, and a tree was down at Goldsboro High School."

Maintenance staff handled the situation, Derksen said, with no further reports of problems received.

-- Staff writer Kenneth Fine contributed to this report.